Noel welcomes 3 helpers aboard

Feels he's found right chemistry with Flaherty, Huddy, Borgford


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Claude Noel knows there will be days this coming winter -- he hopes they are few and far between -- when it may seem like the walls are tumbling down for his Winnipeg Jets.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/07/2011 (4266 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Claude Noel knows there will be days this coming winter — he hopes they are few and far between — when it may seem like the walls are tumbling down for his Winnipeg Jets.


It happens in the course of every hockey season, either through injury woes or extended losing streaks, through moments of crises and concern about whether his message is getting through to his charges.

And that’s when, more than ever, Noel will lean on the men formally introduced to the media Friday as his assistant coaches.

It may be that he just needs someone who can listen to him vent, it may be to seek out advice or counsel. Most of all, though, it will be simply about knowing he’s got a few good men in his corner.

So while the resumés of assistant coaches Charlie Huddy, Wade Flaherty and Tony Borgford overflow with dandy credentials, Noel was also seeking a rather basic ingredient when deciding who would be alongside him on the bench this season: chemistry.

“You have to know your own personality to a degree and what you’re bringing to the table,” Noel said during a session with the media. “You’re going to be bonded together with these people for 200 days or more, and you have to be prepared to dig in.

“There are some things that I looked at, and I feel these people fit what I wanted. I think it’s a good fit for me, I think it’s a good fit for them and for the organization.

“When the heat gets turned up, you want people digging in, and that’s what we’ve got here.”

That’s critical at every level, but especially in the NHL and in a Canadian market where Noel will be pulled in all directions while managing. He has close to 30 years of coaching experience, but just 24 games as boss of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2009-10.

In Huddy, he welcomes aboard a former five-time Stanley Cup champion with the Edmonton Oilers who has spent 12 years as an NHL assistant with the New York Rangers, Oilers and Dallas Stars. Huddy will play a critical role in helping the Jets improve their defence, especially knowing only the Colorado Avalanche surrendered more goals than this squad in 2010-11.

“One of the things I was looking for was staff that could relate to the players and communicate with them,” Noel said. “I think that’s one of my strengths, and when you dig in with players, one of the things you’re looking for is to have good communication with the players and establish trust, and he has respect through his playing and coaching career.

“He’s a tremendous communicator, and all the things I’ve checked, the players really like him and enjoyed working with him.”

Flaherty, who will serve as goaltending coach, is familiar to Manitoba Moose fans as a player, but he has spent the last three years as a developmental goaltender coach with the Chicago Blackhawks. There’s also a connection with his new boss, as Flaherty backstopped the Noel-led Milwaukee Admirals to a Calder Cup championship in 2003-04.

“He took a (leadership) role with the young goaltenders then,” Noel said, “and so it’s an area that is very familiar to him. He brings a lot of assets to the table. He’s won with us and I like his hockey mind, I like his demeanour and I like how he’s able to handle players.”

Borgford might know the player personnel better than anyone on staff after joining the Atlanta Thrashers at their inception in 1999 and spending the last decade in the hockey operations department, specializing in video.

“Wow… I’m from Saskatchewan and I was a Winnipeg Jets fan growing up, so I’m happy to be in Winnipeg and back in Canada,” said Borgford, a 37-year-old product of Regina. “The opportunity here is off the charts as far as I’m concerned.

“I’ve never been in this situation before (waiting to hear if he would still be employed), so it was definitely a unique set of circumstances. So we were patient, and good things happen to those who wait.”

Noel plans to hire one more assistant to handle the forwards and power-play and has had discussions with former Moose captain and three-time Stanley Cup champion Mike Keane.

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